My week began with me unable to get out of bed. I was once again struck with the weight of a depressive episode which paralyzed me and kept me from participating in life. I couldn’t shower, I couldn’t eat, all I could do was try to exist. I called in sick to work and made up an excuse because I still feel that mental health is not taken as seriously as physical health. It’s easier to say “I have an upset stomach” then “I’m feeling depressed.” The reason I feel this way is because systemically people with mental illness are not given the same urgency or medical attention as other people who have physical ailments or visible symptoms. I stayed home on Tuesday as well but experienced a small shift that helped me feel a little more comfortable to tell my boyfriend what was really going on. After my phone call with him, I texted my Manager to tell her, I didn’t have a stomach ache, I was having “a rough couple of days, feeling really down and anxious.” I had a shower, I changed my clothes, I met a friend for a pedicure and late lunch to talk with about my mood and to try to pull myself out of the haze. I am so grateful that all three of these people responded with compassion, kindness and understanding. It made me feel like I don’t have to feel ashamed, I don’t have to isolate myself. I have people who care about me and everything is going to be OK. One of the things I try to avoid when I’m feeling down is the internet – but on Tuesday the internet came to me – when my friend told me the tragic news of New York designer Kate Spade. When I’m down – or want to be in a space that feels soothing, uplifting, warm – there are two places I go: The Bay at Christmas and Kate Spade’s Yorkville store. In fact – I was in the KSYS only 9 days before the news broke of her suicide. I wanted to show my boyfriend how fun and full of life the space was.
Hearing the news made me feel sad – but it also forced some introspection. Media reports have indicated Kate struggled with bipolar disorder – however was not accepting treatment.
As someone who has spent most of my life misdiagnosed, taking incorrect medication, sometimes self medicating or trying to pretend it wasn’t happening at all – I can tell you not treating bipolar disorder correctly and diligently is a very difficult and dangerous thing to do. I can also tell you that when bipolar disorder IS treated correctly and diligently – one can thrive and live life gloriously. Even though I had spent two days in my apartment – my lows were never so low – that I didn’t want to live any more and for that I am thankful, I am grateful and I feel incredibly lucky. Anthony Bourdain – lost his battle with depression to suicide as well this week. Another special human who aligned himself with the rights of LGBT people, was an advocate of the MeToo movement, travelled to parts of the world that undeniably carried the heaviest of burdens in this world – and opened the eyes of spectators globally. Feeding us with culinary gifts and an unmeasurable amount of knowledge. With all that Anthony gave selflessly to everyone – he spent his last hours, perhaps days on this earth feeling his darkness was insurmountable and he was un-saveable. Resulting in Anthony losing his battle and becoming part of the vapidly growing static that is mental illness and suicide. I wept riding the bus – overwhelmed with emotion. Overwhelmed with the unavoidable and alarming truth – that mental illness is being ignored, unaddressed, people of high risk don’t have the resources and are being left in dangerous circumstances to fend for themselves. The resources we do have are dwindling – hospitals and healthcare providers need more funding – in order to provide more resources – in order to treat more patients in order to SAVE LIVES. An ill person’s mood can change on the flip of a switch – and when that happens – there is not enough time to make them wait hours, days, weeks, months for the right kind of treatment. Unfortunately, that is our reality. I was diagnosed 10 years ago with bipolar and I’m still working with my GP and pharmacist to figure out the right dose. I speak to a therapist regularly to learn simple yet effective CBT tools. I write and try to speak openly to bring awareness. I listen to happy, success stories of people living and thriving with mental disorders and I share those stories with others – so that those who suffer know living well with an illness is possible. I realize my shares can be triggering. I share because I want to help prevent suicide and self harm. I want the mental health community to be an open, warm, welcoming one.
If you or someone you know feels triggered, depressed, suicidal and you are able to pick up a phone and reach out help is available to reach back. If you are reading this and you’re feeling like you can’t reach out – be kind to yourself. Allow yourself a day or two or three to feel whatever it is your body is going through. Focus on your breath.Put on something soft.Cuddle up to your cat or dog or favourite pillow.Watch something funny. Watch something happy.Listen to Kamasi Washington or Whitney Houston or Bleachers or whatever you can sing and dance along to.Be kind to yourself.Take a nap. I spent 3 days In the same clothes until I finally was able to shower. It happens. But it’s Saturday now and I’m still here and you know what I feel ok. I feel calm. I feel connected to my body. I feel my spirit. I feel my mind functioning. I’m smiling. I’m relaxed. And with some patience and self care you will get there too. I promise. I wouldn’t lie to you. Mental illness is very real and very powerful. But it doesn’t have to be scary or drastic. Don’t give up. Go easy on yourself. You are loved. If you are a success story – help me to keep the conversation going and bring awareness. We are in this together.